ABU DHABI 23 September 2020: When 59-year-old Adel Mahmoud Shawqi was rushed to the Emergency Department at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s healthcare network, for chest pain found to be an acute heart attack, he was awake, alert and conversant.
A heart attack, which is considered a common occurrence in an Emergency Department (ED) and is normally resolved by the hospital’s multidisciplinary team in less than 60 minutes from arrival, took a sudden turn when the Abu Dhabi resident went into cardiac arrest.
“The electrocardiogram (ECG) test was conducted in the ambulance on route, so we knew that this was a heart attack and were prepared to mobilize the team to reopen the blockage and restore the blood flow,” says Dr. Jacques Kobersy, Chair of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Emergency Medicine Institute.
“Shortly after arriving to the ED, Adel suddenly lost his pulse, stopped breathing and went into a life-threatening heart rhythm. We immediately started CPR and performed multiple rounds of ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) with medications, chest compressions and repeated defibrillator shocks.”
Dr. Kobersy says that they would manage to get a pulse back and then the patient would arrest again. “This was an extraordinary case. We would re-start his heart with the defibrillator shock, but then he would again lose his pulse and arrest. This happened repeatedly and Adel actually required nine shocks in all. We would not give up. Our team managed to bring this patient, who was on the cusp of death, back to life, and then continued to treat him for his heart attack.”
After successfully stabilizing the patient and inserting a breathing tube into his throat, the patient was brought to the cardiac catheterization laboratory where doctors placed a stent in the blocked artery, and also inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) to help his weakened heart pump blood.
The patient was brought to the ICU in critical condition, but with the combined efforts of teams in the Emergency Department, Heart and Vascular Institute, Anesthesiology Institute, and Critical Care and nursing staff, the breathing tube and heart pump were removed just a few days later, and he was able to sit up and talk to his family. He was fully recovered and able to go home within two weeks.
Shawqi, a two-time stroke survivor, says he remembers feeling like he was having another stroke when it began. “I felt very poorly and had immense chest pain, so I asked my wife to call an ambulance. I was fine when I arrived at the hospital but then I lost consciousness,” he says.
“Dr Kobersy and the entire team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have been phenomenal through my recovery. They checked up on me regularly and have been advising me on how to take care of my heart. Most of my strength is back and I can walk and eat by myself now.”
Shawqi says a lack of exercise and excessive smoking can be blamed for his poor heart condition. Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and is the leading cause of preventable deaths. He has now decided to turn his life around and spread awareness about heart health.
“This was a very traumatic experience for my wife. I have promised her that I will stop smoking so that we can be healthy for the rest of our lives,” he says.
“I would also like the community to learn from my experience and go for regular check-ups. People should be taking care of their heart and prioritizing exercise and diet to stay healthy and fit.”
Dr Kobersy says that, even though Shawqi was extremely sick, he has made a miraculous recovery: “Not everyone is as lucky as Adel. He has been given a second chance and the key takeaway is that people should not ignore their health. It is never too late to start your journey to good health.”